5 Interesting Facts from Donald Kraybill’s Lancaster Online Amish Q&A

Donald Kraybill is retired, but hasn’t slowed down much as far as putting out books. He has a new one out called Simply Amish, a short overview of the Amish.

He recently sat down with LNP/Lancaster Online to answer some reader questions on camera, about the Amish in general but with a focus on Lancaster County.

This spawned an article outlining six main takeaways from the talk. But the full discussion is over 40 minutes, so there is a lot more than just those six.

I have chosen five points I found most interesting from the talk. You can see the article and view the full Q-and-A session here.

1. The first Amish in North America – The first Amish settlement was not in Lancaster County, though this community is the oldest still in existence. Amish first came to Pennsylvania in the 1720s, and lived in Berks County near present-day Reading. The first lasting community in Lancaster County came about in 1760 near Churchtown.  Amish have not existed in Europe for over 80 years.

2. Origin of Amish practices – Some Amish practices are simply older European practices that the Amish held onto. Don did not elaborate with examples, but the one that came to mind (which would be present only in certain Amish groups, as far as I know not in Lancaster County) is the courtship practice of bundling.

3. Weddings – Weddings in Lancaster County are held on Tuesday and Thursday. Why? It takes a lot of effort to prep for church on Sunday. Similarly, Monday gives a day to prepare for a Tuesday wedding, as does Wednesday for Thursday affairs. The church benches and other items used or church meals are transported and used for weddings. Weddings are typically held from late October through December.

4. The Spinner – This piece of technology makes life easier for Amish housewives. It’s a metal cylinder which spins clothing dry. It can be found in Lancaster County. Here’s an ad which shows what one looks like. There are models with both electric and air motors. The ad claims that it removes detergents, rather than drying them into clothes, preventing skin irritation.

5. Lancaster Schools – Lancaster County schools typically have a lead teacher and a teacher’s helper. Children are grouped by two adjacent school years (1st and 2nd grade, 3rd and 4th, etc.). They are called to the front of the class in these pairings and taught while the others do work at their desks or listen in. This gives the older children a reinforcement of what they learned before. All teaching and books are in English. There is very little science.

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    1. armed forces

      Why do not these people serve in America’s armed service’s?
      Why do they expect other people to give their lives for America
      which includes them.
      Why are they not part of March on Christen Soldiers. Theme
      If America had fallen they would not even exist, most likely.
      They are wonderful peoples, but one must fight evil forces or
      fall by the way-side.
      They are living a protected life wile some-one else makes a sacrifice for them.
      Thank You For Listening.

      1. AJ

        There are many OTHER people who do not serve in the armed forces. America recognizes Conscientious Objectors. I do not think it’s fair to imply the Amish or anyone else “expects” others to give their lives for them. Study Amish & Mennonite history and you’ll find a long history of choosing non-violence or non-resistance when the far easier option would have been to give in to it.

      2. Dave Carrig

        Hi Roger,

        I served for over 30 years (just retired) and I often thought of the Amish during stressful times throughout my career which for some reason gave me a sense of peace. I suppose I chose to think it was for these hard working, humble people and others like them that I was defending my nation’s interests. With all of the bad things going on in our nation when my life was on the line I could think of these people and take heart that my efforts were for people like them. I understand why they don’t serve and respect them for standing on their beliefs. I have no problem with it and am honored to have sacrificed for them.

      3. Urs

        Because the amish believe in non-resistance (you shell not kill)

        The Amish were hunted because of that and other believes in Europe.

    2. Cheri

      Question regarding Amish friendships

      This isn’t related too much to Kraybill’s interview as I haven’t looked at it yet. I do have a question that maybe someone can answer. I have a few Amish friends in Lancaster County (Old Order Amish). One, in particular, is a 70-something year old single Amish male (never married – always single). I am a 50-something year old single English women. We have gotten to become rather good friends – entirely platonic. He has stated that when my friend (another female) and I visit that the only reason why he doesn’t have us stay with him is because of the rules. When we say good-bye, he shakes our hand. With our female Amish friends we hug good-bye. My question is – what are the “rules” between single Amish men and female English friends? We have very open discussions – he asked me about the “me too” movement last time I was there – which I thought was pretty amusing! I am sending him a book – actually written by Kraybill – because he wanted to see it when I was there and I forgot to give it to him. With our other Amish friends, we end our letters by signing “Love,..” and they do as well (they are females). I don’t want to make him uncomfortable – which is why I am asking this question. Is giving a hug and/or signing a letter with love something that I should definitely avoid? We took him out to eat the last time we were there and the place was rather empty and he asked the waitress to seat us in the back dining room – and when I thought about it afterward, I realized that he probably didn’t want anyone to see him with two English women (although that is my guess). Anyway…any thoughts/comments would be appreciated.

      1. Richard Stevick

        Amish attitudes towards romantic relationships with the English

        Hi, Cheri, Of the great concern of Amish parents or church leaders is for one of their youth to enter into a romantic relationship with a person outside of the Amish faith. Even if the “outsider” were to take instruction and join the Amish, the track record for converts is not good, with two thirds of them eventually leaving the church. Also, if the convert to the Amish marries, the community believes that this ‘mixed marriage,’ as they term it, has a high potential for the couple to leave the Amish church or even experience divorce. I am guessing that these common concerns were responsible for your friend choosing to dine with you in a less public room.

      2. Keith Lucy


        When he asked you to “stay” with him. That was a redflag to me. This does not seem to be a healthy relationship all around. At his age, he should be aware of what this is leading to. If he wants a relationship with you, fine, it’s his choice. Just a little weird.